Monday, November 4, 2013

Parenthood: Week 23 – Date Night Or Divorce?

One of the common pieces of advice Diana and I received before Ollie was born was to make sure that we have date nights. Once a week or so get a babysitter and do something fun without the baby. Time away from the baby will remind you to focus on each other and also why you wanted a baby in the first place.

The implication is that by doing these date nights you will keep your relationship healthy through the process of raising a baby. However, if you don’t, you may end up being part of a disturbing trend.

The divorce rate has steadily gone down since hitting a peak in the 1980s but the divorce rate amongst couples 50 and over has doubled in the past two decades (this article goes into this issue in more depth). Not all of these divorces have to do with kids leaving the nest, but it’s an important factor.

Diana and I were together for 5 years before Ollie was born. If we have another kid in a couple years that would be 20 years of having kids in the house. This leaves a solid 25 years as empty nesters. Half of our time together will be without our kids in the house.

That’s a huge part of our relationship so I get why people encourage Diana and I to spend time focusing on each other even when Ollie is an infant. However I don’t think that date night a couple times a month are enough.

It’s in the process. Diana was looking for winter clothing for Ollie. She picked out something that was great but made sure to ask my opinion on the color. Chances are that asking me only made the process longer and I think she probably got the color that she initially liked better, but it was nice that she included me.

If we get too focused on the product, decisions about the baby and don’t include our partners in the process, we are setting ourselves up for problems. Yes, it’s less productive, but if you’re not working with your partner in raising your child, the same way that you want to address other issues in your life as a team, than it’s going to catch up to you. Yes, it’s important that Ollie is taken care of, but it’s equally important that Diana and I feel good about how we care for him.

Then there are the priorities that sometimes gets confusing. Sometimes Ollie feels like the most important person in my world, but he wouldn’t exist if not for my relationship with Diana. As much as Ollie has changed my perspective on my life, Diana is who brought meaning to my life. My love for Ollie, all that I do for that little boy grows out of my relationship with Diana.

It’s not a question of who is more important. Diana and Ollie are both important to me in my life but in different ways that both require my attention and consideration. What I do for Ollie benefits my relationship with Diana and what I do for Diana benefits Ollie. For example, if I change my share of diapers Ollie has a clean butt but Diana also feels less stress, which in turns gives her a better focus when she is being a mother to Ollie.

Couple’s shouldn’t make decisions to try to prevent divorce. They should do for each other and themselves so that they can be happy together (for some people, this actually leads to a necessary divorce). This can be hard when a kid enters the picture, but it’s got to be done. Don’t give everything you got to your child, you may not have anything left 18 years later.

Go on date nights, but also find time to honor each other every day, even if it’s only for the five minutes before you go to sleep.  Date nights don't guarantee a thing if they don't reflect the love and respect that is shared every day.

Find joy in caring for your child, laugh at the mistakes, and don’t make it a big deal if your partner does something with the baby in a slightly different way than you would. Moms, if your husbands want to dress the baby, let him, no matter how bad it turns out and Dads, do whatever silly outing your wife wants to do even though you know that your baby will never remember it. Do these things for your baby, do them for your partner and do them for you.

2 comments:

  1. Someone once told me that the best thing you can do for your kids is to have a good marriage.

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  2. Date nights are great. But it's not a simple solution. So many times Jim and I couldn't get a sitter, we were tired, and we wanted to snuggle on the couch with a good movie and glass of wine - so it's not specifically a date night where you have to go out. That gets to be a job trying to coordinate. The key is to treat each other equally. Put the other person's feelings and well being before your own. Say I love you and don't be afraid to show it (even if that means you give up the last bite of a shared dessert!). And have those feelings reciprocated. I think if it's a mutual relationship, where you both feel you're feeling fulfilled, then no date night is going to provide that. And, you'll get well beyond the 20+ years of child rearing with that mindset. Jim is still the first person I want to see in the morning and the only person I want to kiss at night - and I hope you both have that for many years to come. And yes, I love my children dearly too. :-)

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